In Challenging Times,
Service Matters Most
As the wind of economic cycles blows hard, some businesses try
to contain costs by cutting corners on customer service. This is
exactly the wrong
thing to do, because service matters now more than ever. Here’s why:
people buy during an economic downturn they are extremely conscious
of the hard-earned money that they spend. Customers want more attention, more appreciation and more recognition when
making their purchases with you, not less
Customers want to be sure they get maximum value for the money they
spend. They want assistance, education, training, installation,
modifications and support. The basic product may remain the same,
but they want more service.
Customers want firmer guarantees that their purchase was the right
thing to do. In good times, a single bad purchase can be quickly
overlooked or forgotten, but in tough times, every expenditure is
scrutinized. Provide the assurance your customers seek with generous
service guarantees, regular follow-up and speedy follow-through on
all queries and complaints.
tough times, people talk more with each other about saving money and
getting good value. Positive word-of-mouth is a powerful
force at any time. In difficult times, even more ears will be
listening. Be sure the words spoken about your business are good
of Superior Service:
Giving good service
in tough times makes good business sense. But how do you actually
achieve it? Here are eight proven principles you can use.
1. Understand how
your customers’ expectations are rising and changing over time. What
was good enough last year may not be good enough now. Use customer
surveys, interviews and focus groups to understand what your
customers really want, what they value and what they believe they
are getting (or not getting) from your business
2. Use quality
service to differentiate your business from your competition. Your
products may be reliable and up-to-date – but your competitors’
goods are, too. Your delivery systems may be fast and user-friendly,
but so are your competitors’!
You can make
a more lasting difference by providing personalized, responsive and
extra-mile service that stands out in a unique way your customers
will appreciate – and remember.
3. Set and
achieve high service standards. You can go beyond basic and expected
levels of service to provide your customers with desired and even
surprising service interactions. Determine the standard for service
in your industry, and then find a way to go beyond it. Give more
choice than ‘the usual’, be more flexible than ‘normal’, be faster
than ‘the average’, and extend a better warranty than all the
customers will notice your higher standards. But eventually those
standards will be copied by your competitors, too. So don’t slow
down. Keep stepping UP!
4. Learn to
manage your customers’ expectations. You can’t always give customers
everything their hearts desire. Sometimes you need to bring their
expectations into line with what you know you can deliver.
The best way
to do this is by first building a reputation for making and keeping
clear promises. Once you have established a base of trust and good
reputation, you only need to ask your customers for their patience
in the rare instances when you cannot meet their first requests.
Nine times out of ten they will extend the understanding and the
leeway that you need.
way to manage customers’ expectations is to ‘under promise, then
over deliver’. Here’s an example: you know your customer wants
something done fast.
You know it will take an hour to complete. Don’t tell your customer
it will take an hour. Instead, let them know you will
rush on their behalf,
but promise a 90-minute timeframe.
you finish in just one hour (as you knew you would all along), your
customer will be delighted to find that you finished the job ‘so
quickly’. That’s ‘under promise, then over deliver’.
5. Bounce back
with effective service recovery. Sometimes things
do go wrong. When it
happens to your customers, do everything you can to set things
right. Fix the problem and show sincere concern for any discomfort,
frustration or inconvenience. Then
do a little bit more by
giving your customer something positive to remember – a token of
goodwill, a gift of appreciation, a discount on future orders, an
upgrade to a higher class of product.
your complaining customers. Customers with complaints can be your
best allies in building and improving your business. They point out
where your system is faulty or your procedures are weak and
problematic. They show where your products or services are below
expectations. They point out areas where your competitors are
getting ahead or where your staff is falling behind. These are the
same insights and conclusions companies pay consultants to provide.
But a complainer gives them to you free!
7. Take personal
responsibility. In many organizations, people are quick to blame
others for problems or difficulties at work: managers blame staff,
staff blame managers, Engineering blames Sales, Sales blames
Marketing and everyone blames Finance. This does not help. In fact,
all the finger-pointing make things much worse.
reliable way to bring about constructive change in your organization
is to take personal responsibility and help make good things happen.
When you see something that needs to be done, do it. If you see
something that needs to be done in another department, recommend it.
Be the person who makes suggestions, proposes new ideas and
volunteers to help on problem solving teams, projects and solutions.
8. See the world
from each customer’s point of view. We often get so caught up in our
own world that we lose sight of what our customers actually
experience. Make time to stand on the other side of the counter or
listen on the other end of the phone. Be a ‘mystery shopper’ at your
own place of business. Or become a customer of your best
competition. What you notice when you look from the ‘other side’ is
what your customers experience every day.
remember that service
is the currency that keeps our economy moving: “I serve you in one
business, you serve me in another.” When either of us improves, the
economy gets a little better. When both of us improve, people are
sure to take notice. When everyone improves, the whole world grows
stronger and closer together.
Use the eight
principles above to build a superior service culture for your
organization. The time to make it happen is now.
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